(by Sapna Kumar)
In my childhood, I took my mother’s cooking for granted. My siblings and I used to joke about fighting for the seat next to the garbage can at dinner so that we could hide the food in our napkins and throw it away when Mom and Dad weren’t looking. We always complained, “Not Indian food again,” hoping for pasta or pizza. But Mom, despite working two to three retail jobs at a time, miraculously found time to cook homemade Indian meals. Most were subsis, or vegetable curries, served with a side of roti or chapatti. But when my parents hosted guests, Mom would go all out and make six-course Indian banquets, with her award-winning tandoori chicken (the award was given to her by the Indian Association of Indianapolis) and homemade kulfi (rich ice cream with cardamom).
My mom was born in Mumbai and came to the United States in an arranged marriage with my father. I don't think she ever planned on spending the rest of her life here, and her cooking reflect a longing for the culture she missed. When she was successful at making a new dish, she often exclaimed, "I've made it just like my mother used to." Surprisingly, Indianapolis had a budding Indian-American community (I attribute it to lots of pharmaceutical and engineering companies in the area). Since she was educated at English-speaking schools and had a B.A. in English, her accent rarely caught much attention. Not only did she dress in Western attire, she was a bit of a tomboy—jeans and blouses and sneakers.